Energy Work

The first principle is not to fool yourself . . .

In 1974, Richard Feynman delivered the commencement address at Caltech. The speech has endured and is often referred to as the "Cargo Cult Science" speech.

I love this speech. It's about intellectual honesty and integrity. It's about how not to fool yourself.

I've referred to it many times and read it over and over. If I were fond of memorizing, which I am not, I would memorize sections of it. I've thought of having, "The first principle is not to fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool," painted on my wall so I'd see it every day.

At the end, he wishes for the students that they always have the freedom to maintain the kind of integrity he describes. I would also wish, for myself and my fellow massage therapists, that we always strive to maintain the high standards of integrity he describes.

Let Us Now Praise Those Who Challenge Us

A massage therapist recently asked the question, "Who was your mentor and what did you learn from them?" Immediately, a particular individual came to mind and I began to think of how I would answer that question. Then I thought of the first massage therapist I considered to be a mentor. And then the second one. Shortly after, I thought of two individuals who came into my life a couple of years ago. They challenged me in ways that changed and improved my thinking. I thought back to my science-minded father who did little experiments with me and bought an encyclopedia for me when I was five years old. The list kept growing longer. It seemed to have no end.

Using Accurate Language, Thinking Accurate Thoughts: Why Words Matter

Massage is older than humans. Monkeys will often groom another monkey when it becomes agitated. Nit-picking among primates is not just a matter of hygiene, it's a manner of soothing and bonding. All mammals engage in some sort of stroking of one another. Tigers lick their cubs, rats lick their pups. We are biologically wired to respond to touch, to stroking. Massage has been with us since we humans became human, since before we had language. It comes naturally to us.

We take its benefit for granted. We know, from direct experience, that it feels good. 

Professor Moyer Discusses Reiki Research

Christopher Moyer, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology who has done research on anxiety, depression, and massage therapy. He recently co-authored the book Massage Therapy: Integrating Research and Practice. Active in many online discussions, Moyer has been a voice for science literacy and research literacy in the field of massage therapy. Through his online comments, he has patiently and generously mentored many massage therapists who aspire to be more science-based and research literate. In a recent FaceBook discussion, Moyer raised the question: why is continuing education credit, required for some professional memberships and state licensing, granted for classes in Reiki?

Notes for a Presentation at the Skeptical Society of St. Louis Skepticamp: 8/18/12

This page was written as a reference for those who attended the Skeptical Society of St. Louis Skepticamp, Saturday, August 18, 2012. It includes websites mentioned during a presentation on the field of massage therapy from the point of view of a science-based massage therapist. The title of the presentation was "Woo, Sloppy Thinking, and Language."

Magical Thinking, Deepities, and Massage Therapists

About a month ago, I shared some of my thoughts about energy work from the point of view of an evidence-based massage therapist. To my surprise, that blog article got quite a bit of attention and sparked some fascinating conversations. The issue of energy work is one of the most divisive and yet, in my opinion, one of the most important issues in the field of massage therapy today. Unfortunately, when the subject comes up, the conversation usually gets pretty contentious quickly. I was pleased to see some discussion that was thoughtful and respectful.

More Thoughts on Energy Work: Massage as Ritual

Yesterday I posted an article about my thoughts on energy work. I was surprised at the discussions it prompted among some manual therapists on forums off this site and was pleased with the thoughtful, respectful comments. I had actually been just a little nervous, afraid that my science-based friends might have thought that I'd gone daft and abandoned science, but they totally got it. I'm glad.

So now, I have a confession to make. I don't do it often but yes, I have engaged in energy work. In fact, some of the most profound experiences have occurred during sessions when my approach has come from this direction. Now, before you think I've gone over to the dark side, let me explain. Most of my work is done from a physiological approach, its purpose being to solve a particular physical problem. Some of my work, often with clients who have suffered trauma and have been referred from a psychotherapist, comes from an approach that is less focussed on physiology and more attentive to the emotional state of the client.

What Is Energy Work: Some Thoughts from an Evidence-Based Therapist

What is energy work? Practitioners of energy work claim there is a subtle human energy field which they can detect with their hands. By placing their hands on or over their subject, they are able to correct imbalances and unblock blocked energy. Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, Chakra Balancing, and Polarity Therapy are all various forms of energy work.

There is only one problem: no one has ever actually demonstrated the existence of a human energy field. No one. Ever.

Practitioners of energy work claim to be able to feel a human energy field with their hands. However, under controlled conditions, they fail to demonstrate an ability to do so. The most famous experiment, the Rosa Study, was designed by a nine year old girl who became the youngest person to have a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Simple and elegant in its design, practitioners of Therapeutic Touch sat behind a screen and were tested on whether they could detect the presence of a hand held next to theirs without being able to see the hand. They failed. The study has never been contradicted.